aeseaes – Realiti (Grimes cover)
Bandits on the Run – Back to Black (Amy Winehouse cover)
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
It is astonishing that there has never been a post on this site dedicated to Dr. John, aka the Night Tripper, aka Mac Rebbenack, whose candle finally snuffed this week after 77 years. Indeed, it seems positively shameful, given the number of covers he performed, often bringing new life to songs and genres long deemed dead or forgotten, at least by this generation. In the voodoo lore he adopted as his early image, his spirit now has a year and a day to drift free in the wilderness, before ceremonially starting in a new life.
Last week, Beyoncé surprised-dropped her live album Homecoming. It accompanied the Netflix film of the same name, which immortalized her lionized 2018 Coachella performance. The biggest surprise of all was the bonus track: a cover of Maze’s 1981 “Before I Let Go.” The original song wasn’t a huge hit when it first came out, but has grown to be referred to sometimes as the “black national anthem.” Beyoncé brings it right up to the present with a big production including marching band, new rap verse, and a sample of New Orleans bounce artist DJ Jubilee.
When Jack White and Brendan Benson’s band The Raconteurs announced their first album in 11 years, one track name immediately jumped out at us: 07. Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) (Donovan Cover). It’s not only that White is a master of the cover song (he’s appeared on our year-end lists more than anyone else I believe), but also…Donovan?? Definitely a surprising choice, especially for a man who’s literally performed with Bob Dylan. Maybe he watched Don’t Look Back recently.
They say nostalgia works in 20-year cycles, and this year the music of 1996 has been in the media a lot. And if you believe the music blogs, it turns out 1996 was a truly groundbreaking year for every possible genre. Over at SPIN: “The 96 Best Alternative Rock Songs Of 1996.” Complex: “Best Rap Songs of 1996.” Junkee: “Ten reasons 1996 was a great year for dance music”. Loudwire: “10 Best Metal Albums of 1996.” Red Bull Music: “1996: Why it was a great year for pop”. Suck it, 1995! (Kidding; similar articles were of course written last year too.)
We’ll be honest: 1996 was not some magical, pioneering year for cover songs. It was also not a terrible year. It was just, you know, another year. There’s no overarching theorem of 1996’s cover songs that wasn’t true in ’95 or ’97. But even so, Cover Me wasn’t around in 1996, so we never made a Best Cover Songs of 1996 list (our first year-end list came in 2009, with the Kings of Convenience’s “It’s My Party” topping it, and you can catch up on all the lists here). So we decided, before the year ends and we take our look at the best covers songs this year, why not take a nostalgic rewind and do 1996 just for fun, twenty years too late.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Dylan: “Turn the organ up.”
Wilson: “Hey, man, that cat’s not an organ player.”
Dylan: “Hey, now don’t tell me who’s an organ player and who’s not. Just turn the organ up.”
When Bob Dylan ordered producer Tom Wilson to bring up the organ in “Like a Rolling Stone,” it cemented the talents of a 21-year-old named Al Kooper into legend. (Kooper tells the whole story in his fantastic autobiography Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards.) Once serendipity has allowed you to put a trademark stamp on arguably the greatest rock ‘n’ roll song of all time, there’s nowhere to go but down, right?
Wrong – in fact, Kooper was just getting started.